29th Signal Symposium logoBiometrics may be wave of future

by Denise Allen

Kristin Schaad inserted a smart card into her computer, but before she could access the computer she had to place her finger on a pad at the bottom of her keyboard.

Recognizing that Schaad was who she claimed to be, the computer granted her access.

Schaad, a contractor with the Department of Defense�s Biometrics Management Office in Arlington, Va., demonstrated the new technology at the Signal symposium.

�This is where we�re headed,� said LTC Robert Bollig, deputy director of the DoD BMO, at a briefing on biometrics at the Signal Center Nov. 29.

LTC Robert Bollig briefing at symposium about biometrics LTC Robert Bollig, deputy director of DoD's BMO, demonstrates the concepts of biometrics for Signal symposium attendees.

Biometrics are �measurable physical characteristics and personal behavioral traits that can be used to recognize the individual or verify the identity of an individual,� he said.

Among them are facial recognition, fingerprints, hand and finger geometry, iris scan, signature verification and speech recognition.

The DoD BMO opened in July 2000. One of its projects is to examine commercially made, off-the-shelf biometrics products and evaluate them for military use.

�We want to do whatever we can to provide positive proof of identification,� Bollig said.

Biometrics provides a higher degree of security than a password, which can be forgotten, or a key or card, which can be lost or stolen.

With the fingerprinting device, the computer took the print and graphed it with a series of dots that were transformed into a mathematical algorithm.

�It�s a template of certain points and the relationship between them,� Bollig said. �There�s no way to reconstruct them.�

The biometrics-technology industry is relatively young, and some challenges have arrived when researching the products available.

The commercial products have only been tested on small groups of people. Sometimes, the products come with documentation written in one language and operating systems in another.

When testing one product, BMO officials had to find a Japanese interpreter because all the documentation and the keyboard were in Japanese.

While it�s not a function of BMO to research and develop biometrics technology suited to military uses, officials there are finding that establishment of a research-and-development unit may be necessary. �Commercial products aren�t doing it,� Bollig said. �We need rugged devices for harsh environments.�

Ultimately, biometrics technology will find its way to the battlefield, where a soldier�s voice or fingerprint will become his password.

�By 2012, biometrics will be the universally empowering technology that ensures the right person with the right privileges has access at the right time to support warfighting,� Bollig said.

Ms. Allen is a staff writer for The Signal, Fort Gordon�s post newspaper.

Acronym QuickScan
BMO � Biometrics Management Office
DoD � Department of Defense

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